The right field position provides a mixed bag for fantasy owners, loaded with powerful sluggers and perennial tormentors of opposing pitching staffs. There's a league MVP, the single-season record holder for hits, a three-time 60-HR slugger and an All-Star still looking for a home (Magglio Ordonez). In 2004, 19 right fielders hit 20 or more home runs and 15 knocked in 80 or more runs.
I begin with a player who pushed his way up the fantasy rankings after two straight power-laden seasons and end with a slugging veteran who rejoins his father in San Francisco.
Jay Gibbons, Bal
Gibbons posted two strong seasons for the Baltimore Orioles in 2002 and 2003, averaging 25 homers and 84 RBIs. In 2004, the slugger slipped backward, hitting .223 before the All-Star break with six homers and 28 RBIs in 53 games. The wheels came off in June when he hit .133 in 14 games.
Trot Nixon, Bos
The Red Sox still led the majors in runs generated without their slugging right fielder. Nixon appeared in only 48 games last season, stopping a three-year period during which he averaged 26 home runs and 89 RBIs. In 85 career games against the rival Yankees, Nixon carries a .239 average with six homers and 31 RBIs.
Gary Sheffield, NYY
It's scary to think that Sheffield was only the second biggest acquisition heading into the 2004 season. He responded to the bright lights of the Great White Way with big power numbers (36 HR, 121 RBIs), but saw his average drop 40 points and his stolen base total drop off the map (five in 11 attempts). Sheffield managed just a .239 average with three homers and 14 RBIs in 19 games against the Red Sox.
Jose Cruz Jr., TB
The past two seasons, Cruz has seen his power game decrease despite appearing in 96 percent of his teams' games. With that said, he's still hit 20 or more home runs in four of the past five seasons with an average of 76 RBIs. His batting average will hurt you though, with a career mark right at .250.
Alexis Rios, Tor
Expectations for this 23-year-old were high entering 2004 after a spectacular season with the Double-A New Haven Ravens in 03 (.352 average, 54 extra-base hits, 82 RBIs and 11 steals). He hit a respectable .286 with 15 steals for the big club in 04, but though he clubbed 32 extra-base hits, he managed just one home run and 28 RBIs.
Jermaine Dye, CHW Save an injury-shortened 2003 season, Dye has been a solid contributor for fantasy owners since 1999. He's turned in five seasons with 20 or more home runs and three 100-RBI campaigns. Dye will look forward to playing Cleveland with regularity, having posted 15 homers with 49 RBIs and a .290 average in 63 games against Indians pitching.
Casey Blake, Cle
The return of Aaron Boone to the field relegates Blake to right field. Don't worry, he should retain his 3B eligibility in your fantasy league. In two full seasons with the Tribe, Blake averaged 22 HR, 77 RBIs and 86 runs scored. As Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and company continue to mature, 31-year old Blake may reach new heights in 05.
Bobby Higginson, Det
What happened to the monster in training we saw in the 2000 season? He busted out for a 30-HR, 102-RBI campaign and hasn't been north of 17 homers or 71 RBIs since. Higginson hit .228 with 27 RBIs after the All-Star break.
Abraham Nunez, KC
Nunez launched buckets of gopher balls in spring training last year, but that failed to translate to any success in games that counted. For the season, he appeared in 117 games between Florida and Kansas City, hitting just six homers with a .214 average. He failed to connect for a homer in either of his home parks.
Jacque Jones, Min
After two straight seasons above .300, Jones' average dropped back to a pedestrian .254 mark. However, he did post solid powers numbers with 24 homers and 80 RBIs. Jones' 13 stolen bases tied him for ninth among right fielders.
Vladimir Guerrero, LAA
The five-tool fantasy stud finally became a household name with his monster 2004 AL MVP campaign. With 80 extra-base hits, 124 runs scored, 126 RBIs and .337 average, his 15 stolen bases were an added bonus for his owners. Guerrero topped 200 hits for the third time in his career and posted his eighth straight season above .300.
Nick Swisher, Oak
The 24-year old right fielder will be counted on to get on base early and often. He hit only .263 for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats before his call-up by the Athletics. However, Swisher possesses a great eye at the plate, drawing 102 walks in 122 games (.406 On-Base Percentage).
Ichiro Suzuki, Sea
The numbers that Ichiro puts up every year are mind-boggling. Four straight seasons with more than 200 hits, 100 runs and 30 stolen bases. Oh yeah, he also holds a .339 batting average. The additions of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre in Seattle mean lots of runs scored for this hitting machine.
Richard Hidalgo, Tex
Hidalgo rediscovered his power stroke after bringing his game to New York. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he hit for a weak .228 average to go with his 21 homers. He returns to the state of Texas and becomes part of the Rangers' potent lineup. After the All-Star break last season, he hit a sub-Mendoza .197.
Raul Mondesi, Atl
The beleaguered slugger joins the Braves after a strange 2004 campaign in which he played in just 34 games between two teams (Anaheim and Pittsburgh). It's also his sixth team since 2002. His three homers and 15 RBIs marked his lowest totals in a decade. Mondesi also saw a string of nine straight seasons of 14 or more steals snapped.
Juan Encarnacion, Fla
After a brief stopover in Los Angeles, Encarnacion returns to Florida. In 2003, Encarnacion set career marks in runs (80), RBIs (94) and posted the second-highest HR and stolen base totals of his career (19 of each). He carries a lifetime .247 average at Pro Player Stadium with one HR per 19 at-bats.
Mike Cameron, NYM
For now, Cameron calls right field in Shea Stadium home with the acquisition of Carlos Beltran. He may be on the move, but nothing's decided as of yet. Cameron smacked a career-high 30 home runs (only 11 at Shea) with 22 stolen bases. His 76 RBIs would have ranked 17th among right fielders last season and his 76 runs would have tied for 15th. Cameron hit a feeble .231 last season, a full 42 points below the league average.
Bobby Abreu, Phi
The talented Abreu stands among one of the few five-tool players in the game. He mashed 30 homers for the second time in his career and scored 118 runs, tying a career-high. Add 105 RBIs, a .301 average and 40 steals and you've got a first-round draft pick this year. Abreu has averaged 29 steals per season since assuming a full-time role in 1998 and has yet to miss significant time due to injury (157 games played per year).
Jose Guillen, Was
Forget that strange deactivation in the final stages of the 2004 season, this guy is a fantasy force. As a full-time player these past two seasons between Oakland, Cincinnati and Anaheim, Guillen averaged 29 HR, 95 RBIs and hit .302.
Sammy Sosa, ChC
Will the Cubs deal the slugging outfielder, or won't they? In 2004, Sosa played in the fewest number of games since 1996 and cut out of the clubhouse early on the final day of the season. The one-time five-tool fantasy player contributed big numbers in just one category, home runs. And even there, he launched 35, his fewest since 1994. He hasn't stolen a base in three of the past four seasons and his batting average was 75 points off his 2001 career-high.
Austin Kearns, Cin
The 24-year old Kearns risks developing a reputation of being as brittle as his famous Cincinnati teammate (Griffey Jr.). After a solid 107-game debut in 2002, Kearns played in only 45 percent of the Reds' games over the past two seasons due to a myriad of health problems. When he does play, the young outfielder averages an extra-base hit per 10 at-bats and drives in a run every six at-bats. Strangely, June and July have been his two toughest months. In June, Kearns holds a .221 average in 46 games, whereas in July, he has yet to homer.
Lance Berkman, Hou
Taking a cue from Aaron Boone, Berkman hurt himself in a pickup game this offseason, except he did so in a flag football game instead of on the hardwood. He's had his right ACL surgically repaired and isn't expected back until mid-May at the earliest. Orlando Palmeiro (three homers, 12 RBIs in 133 at-bats in 2004) will fill in while the Astros anxiously await Berkman's return.
In his five seasons in the Major Leagues, Berkman has successfully driven in a run in 48 percent of his career at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Geoff Jenkins, Mil
Jenkins played in a career-high 157 games in 2004, reaching new heights in at-bats, hits and strikeouts as well. He lent support to fantasy owners in three categories. For the second straight year, he topped 90 RBIs, 80 runs scored and blasted 27 homers (28 in 03). Jenkins also factored into 29 percent of Milwaukee's run production in 04.
Rob Mackowiak, Pit
The versatile Mackowiak played 19 or more games at four different positions and appeared in one game at 1B for good measure. Mackowiak posted solid numbers in four of the five traditional rotisserie categories, falling short only in batting average (.246). Unfortunately, 12 of his 17 home runs, 42 of his 65 runs scored and nine of his 13 stolen bases came before the break. He also hit just .224 after the festivities in Houston.
Larry Walker, StL
Admit it. The sight of Larry Walker in Cardinal red didn't look quite right. He accepted a deal to St. Louis after nine and a half seasons in Colorado, during which he posted five 100-RBI campaigns. For the first time in his career, Walker scuffled with runners in scoring position in 04. He hit only .169 in these situations, well off his .305 career pace.
Shawn Green, Ari
Big power numbers in the second half of 04 put Green back in the good graces of fantasy owners. He finished the season with a respectable 28 dingers and 86 RBIs (his HR total ranked 10th among right fielders). In 44 games at his new home, Bank One Ballpark, Green carries a .314 average with 14 HR and 40 RBIs. He also averages an extra-base hit every seven at-bats.
Dustan Mohr, Col
Mohr joins his third team in three years and takes over right field for the Rockies. Perhaps a move to the thin Colorado air is what Mohr needs to live up to the big power totals he put up at Double-A New Britain in 2001 (24 HR, 41 doubles, 91 RBIs, .336 average). The 2002 season was best, when he pounded out 37 extra-base hits and six steals for the Twins.
J.D. Drew, LAD
Drew reached new career marks in HR (31), RBIs (93) and runs (118) in his single season in Atlanta. He now carries huge expectations to go along with a monster contract in L.A. In 17 career games at Dodger Stadium, Drew carries a .263 average with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
Brian Giles, SD
After four brilliant seasons from 1999-2002 when he averaged 37 home runs and 109 RBIs, Giles has been an average producer in the outfield for the past two years (21 HR and 91 RBIs). In 2004, Giles' batting average was his lowest since 1998.
Moises Alou, SF
Alou leaves the North Side of Chicago to reunite with his father in San Francisco. The 38-year-old slugger established a new career-high with 39 home runs last season. He reached the 100-RBI mark for the fifth time in his career and topped 100 runs for the second time. Alou will miss Wrigley Field, where he launched 29 of his 39 home runs. Additionally, his batting average was 92 points higher at home than on the road.
That concludes my look at the position players. Next time, I'll get into the arms race with a look at starting pitching where a number of big names have switched squads.
We're down to exactly three weeks until pitchers and catchers report for camp. There's no snow in Florida or Arizona.